After being introduced as one of South Africa’s most talented and fearless young authors, Thando Mgqolozana launched his third novel, Unimportance, at The Book Lounge on Friday 11 April.
The eager crowd of colleagues, friends and fans agreed with the praise as Imraan Coovadia continued the introduction, noting that “it is difficult to know what he (Mgqolozana) will do next” as his three novels differ so greatly.
Mgqolozana’s ouevre includes the story of a young Xhosa initiate’s circumcision (A Man Who Is Not a Man), a re-imagining of the Nativity Story (Hear Me Alone) and now an allegorical look at politics and the way we choose our leaders in a stream-of-consciousness campus novel.
The author explained the diversity, saying that he grows tired of a topic very easily and needs to move on. However, his books do seem to have a golden thread weaving them together â€“ someone pointed out to Mgqolozana that mental health appears to be a theme in all his work. He quoted Nadine Gordimer, saying that sometimes, at the end of your career, you find you have been writing one novel. He laughed and noted that he hopes it’s still a long while before he discovers that. Coovadia probed Mgqolozana to tell the audience what they could expect from him next, to which he smiled slyly and responded: “Maybe my next title will be zombies…”
Unimportance follows Zizi, the narrator, as he prepares for one of the biggest moments of his young adult life – his speech to convince fellow students to vote for him as President of the Student Representative Council. The entire novel takes place within 12 anxiety-filled hours as a dramatic event leads to distraction from his manifesto-writing preparations. Mgqolozana said that he’d always wanted to write a campus novel, chronicling the goings on of university life. His approach is unique with regards to other South African novels, being the first book to take place solely on one of our campuses. His experience as a student leader at University of the Western Cape might have influenced him a bit, mentioned Mgqolozana, but he denies any intentions to put people from his past in the novel. One thing he admits to unreservedly is putting parts of himself in the novel: “Of course the characters reflect me!” said Mgqolozana, noting that authors who deny this tend to annoy him.
The end of the book – and general theme of Unimportance, a novel which aims at offering insight to the intricacies of politics – begs the question: Do voters understand their responsibilities and what do they do with it? The title refers to the unimportance of politicians, despite their own personal delusions of grandeur and sense of importance. One of the audience members, who introduced himself as a member of parliament, agreed with the sentiment, saying that “the real important people are the voters”. Mgqolozana emphasised this point, asking: “Once voters discover the rottenness of their potential leader, realising the power of their vote – what do they do with it?” When asked who he wrote this book for, students, politicians or general public, he pointed out that it would be a miracle if politicians were to read it, but that he would not want to be prescriptive about his audience.
As a final thought, Mgqolozana elaborated on the intentions of Unimportance: “I wanted to imagine what becomes of student politicians. Those people don’t end there, they become something.”
* * * * * * * *
HelenÃ© Prinsloo tweeted live from the event using #livebooks:
Best Red invites you to the launch of Children of a Bitter Harvest: Child Labour in the Cape Winelands by Susan Levine at the Centre For African Studies on the UCT campus.
The event takes place on 23 April 2013 and starts at 4:30 for 5 PM.
Crain Soudien will deliver the welcoming address.
See you there!
- Date: Wednesday, 23 April 2014
- Time: 4:30 PM for 5:00 PM
- Venue: Centre For African Studies, UCT,
Harry Oppenheimer Institute Building
Level 3, Engineering Mall Road
University of Cape Town
Cape Town | Map
- Guest Speaker: Crain Soudien
- RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org
WiSER and the Nelson Mandela Foundation invite you to a reopening of the Mandela archive, in the form of the launch of a new scholarly work, The Cambridge Companion to Nelson Mandela, edited by Rita Barnard.
The event will take place in two parts: In the first, Ferial Haffajee (City Press) and Mbongiseni Buthelezi (Centre for Law and Society, UCT), will speak to the spectre of Mandela, and the project of future freedom, on the eve of the South African elections. In the second part, Verne Harris (Nelson Mandela Foundation) and Rita Barnard (UPenn), will speak about the book and its significance. Achille Mbembe (WiSER) will chair the event.
See you there!
Join Marianne Thamm tonight at The Book Lounge as she moderates an in-depth discussion on the Public Protector’s Nkandla report and the upcoming elections.
Taking part in the discussion are Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, human rights lawyer Mandisa Shandu, Daily Maverick‘s associate editor Ranjeni Munusamy, AmaBhungane‘s Stefaans Brummer and civil society activist Zackie Achmat.
Don’t miss it!
Love Books and Modjaji Books invite you to the launch of Kholofelo Maenetsha’s To The Black Women We All Knew, a novel about love and life in a modern township.
The book explores the capriciousness of life and love in South Africa now, and the strength of a group of women friends in the face of a crisis.
Don’t miss the launch of this exciting new novel!
- Date: Wednesday, 23 April 2014
- Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
- Venue: Love Books
The Bamboo Lifestyle Centre
53 Rustenburg Road
Johannesburg | Map
- RSVP: email@example.com, 011 726 7408
About the book
“Ama knew what this quilt represented to the women. It was their love for each other, stitched together to form a symbol of their love and a blessing for the union of love between Ama and Thabo. For a moment, she clutched it to her breast, before carrying it over to the stunned group.”
As Ama’s wedding day approaches and her friends â€“ Beauty, Matlakala and Pamela â€“ are there to lend varying degrees of support. But when tragedy strikes and spreads to every corner of the group’s lives they hold on each other to survive. Will their misfortunes bring them closer together or will it tear the quilt of their friendship apart? In To The Black Women We All Knew, Maenetsha showcases the modern township existence and its weakening yet ever-present link to tradition. Her vivid writing tells of the capriciousness of life and love and the strength of women in the face of a crisis.
The Book Lounge and Random House Struik invite you to the launch of After Freedom by Katherine S Newman and Ariane De Lannoy.
The authors will be in conversation with Crain Soudien on Wednesday 30 April at 5:30 PM for 6 PM.
Don’t miss it!